Three and a half stars
Footlite Musicals; directed by Kathleen Clarke Horrigan
I dare not say that Children of Eden star Claire Wilcher is better than God, but playing both Eve and Noah’s wife in this Old Testament musical, she surely steals His thunder. In the beginning (as in Genesis), a character called Father introduces his children Adam and Eve to their perfect world. Everything will always be perfect, he says, as long as they obey Him. Playing the young Eve like Dorothy in Kansas, Wilcher wins us over with an innocent longing for something beyond Eden and a voice reminiscent of the young Judy Garland. By contrast, John Phillips as Father of the white hair and flowing robes is holier than even He ought to be. You’ll be rooting for the snake, played wonderfully by five harmonizing men and women in bowler hats. In Act 2, star-crossed lovers (the excellent Phil Criswell and Libby Byrum) sing sweetly, while Noah decides what obeying God will mean for his family. In the end, Wilcher steps forward once more for a nearly show-stopping gospel number. Written by John Caird and composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz, Children of Eden is nearly three hours of sometimes profound, often overwrought father/child metaphor infused with a few memorable tunes, cliché-ridden lyrics and Splenda-sweet choruses. Footlite should exorcise the latter two and tone down the homespun spectacle to better showcase excellent staging and scenery, talented vocalists and truly tender moments. Through Oct. 7; 317-926-6630."